Castel Ovo

Castle in Naples

CC BY-SA 2.0 / Mac9

Castel dell’Ovo, or “Egg Castle,” stands prominently on what was once the island of Megaride, now a peninsula jutting into the Gulf of Naples, Italy. Its name is derived from a medieval legend involving the Roman poet Virgil, who was believed to be a powerful sorcerer and seer. According to myth, Virgil placed a magical egg in the castle’s foundation to strengthen and protect it. It is said that if the egg breaks, the castle and Naples would face catastrophic disasters. The castle is situated between the San Ferdinando and Chiaia districts, overlooking Mergellina across the sea.

Historical Context of Castel Ovo during the Roman Era

The entrance to Castel dell’Ovo from the north Castel dell’Ovo is Naples’ oldest castle, rooted in the 6th century BC when Greek settlers from Cumae established the city on the island of Megaride. This location provides stunning views of the Naples waterfront and beyond.

In the 1st century BC, the Roman elite Lucius Licinius Lucullus constructed a part of his lavish villa on this site, later known as Castellum Lucullanum. By the mid-5th century, the structure was fortified by Emperor Valentinian III and became the exile place for Romulus Augustulus, one of the last Western Roman emperors, in 476. After 492, Eugippius established a monastery there.

Castel Ovo from Norman to Napoleonic Times

The original Roman structures and subsequent fortifications were dismantled in the 9th century by locals to prevent Saracen raids. The Normans built the first castle on these ruins in the 12th century, with Roger the Norman establishing it as his stronghold after conquering Naples in 1140. The castle’s prominence waned when King Charles I of Anjou built the newer Castel Nuovo in 1266 and moved his court there. However, Castel dell’Ovo continued to serve various roles, including as the Royal Chamber, the State Treasury, and a prison.

Throughout history, notable figures were imprisoned here, including Empress Constance of the Holy Roman Empire in 1191 and King Conradin before his execution in 1268. Queen Joanna I of Naples was also held here in 1381.

The castle’s appearance today reflects renovations from the Aragonese rule in the 15th century and modifications following bombardments during the Italian Wars. It underwent significant restoration starting in 1975, leading to its current state.

Castel Ovo in the Present Day

The 19th-century saw the development of the small fishing village Borgo Marinaro around the eastern wall of the castle, now known for its marina and dining spots. The castle’s layout includes a long bastion and a causeway connecting it to the mainland, popular among newlyweds for wedding photos. It hosts several buildings used for exhibitions and events. Excavations have uncovered a 2500-year-old harbor associated with the original Greek settlement, featuring ancient street layouts and defensive structures, discovered by underwater archaeologists in 2018.

The Castel Ovo appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Naples!

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Visiting Castel Ovo


Monday to Friday: 9 am to 7 pm.

Sunday: 9 am to 1 pm.



Address: Castel dell'Ovo, Via Eldorado, Naples, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

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